Waving The Flag Of Unreality

Thursday, 9 December 2004, 11:24 | Category : Sports
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From 1972, the year after the last 10-win season at Ole Miss, through 1998, the year before David Cutcliffe arrived at Oxford, Ole Miss football was 145-153-4. I don’t have their SEC record at hand but it was a losing record. They had 9 winning seasons during that stretch, 3 of which were 6-5. From 1964 until 1971, the overall record was 58-29. That was the last eight years under the great Johnny Vaught, who is the coach that’s caused problems for every Rebel coach since. David Cutcliffe compiled a record of 44-29 during his six seasons. No coach since Johnny Vaught has come close to that mark. But he didn’t return Ole Miss to the “glory days”, which took place during a short six-year stretch in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Ask a typical Ole Miss fan how many SEC championships the Rebels won during Archie’s career, and they’ll probably tell you they won a couple. In reality, they weren’t even close. Their records were 7-3-1, 8-3, and 7-4. About what Cutcliffe did, except for last season’s 10-3 mark, in which they came closer to an SEC title than at any point since 1963. David Cutcliffe’s Rebels fell to 4-7 this year. In 1964, after a 7-1-2 mark in 1963, Johnny Vaught’s Rebels dropped to 5-5-1. Vaught was kept on; Cutcliffe was fired. Cutcliffe was fired because he couldn’t take Ole Miss back to that lofty position that they only occupied once, for a brief period nearly half a century ago.


The topic of the day is “Reality”. Here’s the reality – over the past 40 years, the average Ole Miss record hovered between 5-6 and 5-5-1. You can blame the coach, you can blame the weather, you can blame slimespreaders from Venus. The reality is that the past 30 years pretty much tells you what you’re capable of. And David Cutcliffe exceeded that by a fairly wide margin. “Yes”, say some Ole Miss fans, “but it was really Eli Manning, not Cutcliffe, who gave us that record”. Really? Eli went 7-5 and 8-4 at Ole Miss while he was still in high school? He went 7-5 in 2000 while completing 16 of 33 passes for 170 yards? Manning only started for 2 seasons at Ole Miss. Ole Miss was 17-9 those two years. The other years, Cutcliffe was 27-20. Still much better than the Ole Miss average since 1971.

So Ole Miss is searching for the coach to take them to that next level. So far, Ron Zook, Bobby Petrino, Ty Willingham, Paul Johnson, and probably several others have said “no thanks”. Rick Neuheisel seems to have been deemed not worthy by Ole Miss AD Pete Boone. Now they’re talking to former Clevend Browns head coach Butch Davis, who has said he doesn’t want to coach again at this time, Southern Cal assistant coach Ed Orgeron, and maybe Miami assistant coach Randy Shannon. Given that Davis left the Browns after a panic attack, the pressure of consistently winning 11 and 12 games each year at Ole Miss, which apparently is all they’ll settle for, would seem uninviting to him. Orgeron and Shannon are assistant coaches at major programs, which ironically is where they found Cutcliffe.

Here’s the deal: Ole Miss fans are the most unrealistic in college football. I’m not saying Ole Miss isn’t capable of winning the SEC. But they’re not capable of winning it on a consistent basis. With an exceptional series of recruiting classes, they could reach those heights for a season, maybe two, but just as Mississippi State has discovered, the small schools can’t sustain it. But Ole Miss will continue to try, and they’ll keep firing coaches every 5-6 years in search of that never-to-be-realized goal. Guys, you had the coach you were looking for. You just dumped him. Hoddy Toddy.

2 Comments for “Waving The Flag Of Unreality”

  1. 1Dave

    I think Zook might have taken the Ole Miss job over Illinois if he hadn’t been raised in the Midwest. I’m not sure which is overall the better program, though you do have to give Ron Guenther (the Illini AD) credit for running a very solid department, and Illinois is overall a better-rated school.

    Maybe what you say here was a big factor… Illinois was looking for a coach that could deliver 6-5 and 7-4 consistently, and took three years to fire a guy that was fielding absolutely awful teams. Zook will certainly have a much friendlier and more forgiving atmosphere at Illinois than he evidently would at Mississippi.

  2. 2bubba burnham

    I think you better you back to arithmetic class. You’re numbers aren’t the same ones I come up with. Saying Ole Miss was no better than .500 in the past 40 years is not true. They went 12 years without going to a bowl (1972-1983) but began to rebound after that. Archie lost the SEC championship his senior season when LSU beat them in the final game of the year (1970). He played with a flak jacket and cast on his arm. You may be right about Ole Miss not winning the SEC on a consistent level, but they have not had a decent coach in 40 years except for Tuberville. If Orgeron can’t get it done, then I’ll eat crow. Is that fair enough?